July 2011

How to Name Your Band

Helpful tips for budding musicians


As Cursive will tell you, art is hard. You want to stay true to your inner visions, but you also would like to please a particular audience. If you're a pop musician, your struggle is up an especially steep hill. You need fans, you need gigs, you need record sales, you need to make it to SXSW next year. And you can't accomplish any of those things until people know who you are. 

Naming your music project, be it solo or with a band, is one of the most important steps in branding yourself. If you're just one guy, it's helpful to come up with a name that makes you sound like a band. Most booking agents are more likely to invite bands to come play their venues than solo acts. It's hard to get a crowd excited (and spending money at the bar) if you're just a dude with an acoustic guitar and some feelings. Besides, names of humans just aren't as memorable, fun, or catchy as names of bands. You're stuck with the name your parents gave you, but you can name your band anything. Unless you've got a really, really good given name, don't use it in its entirety to advertise yourself as an artist.

If you've got a super rad last name, there's one option. Van Halen and Bon Jovi both made this one work, and bands today are still working the surname. But again--your band could be named anything. Don't tell me you can't think of a single combination of words that sounds better than the name you inherited from your family.

Four Epic First Tracks

Records that begin with huge moves

Here's to records that don't mess around. Here's to skipping those tentative first steps that most albums tread and just launching into the meat of an album by track one. Here's to starting off with a whallop of a song. The following LPs kick themselves off with tracks that stretch to seven minutes or longer. It takes some guts to lead into an album with a huge bite--hey, let's be honest, not everyone has that great of an attention span these days--but these bands pull it off like nobody's business.

Grandaddy - "He's Simple, He's Dumb, He's the Pilot" off of The Sophtware Slump

Apparently Elliott Smith used to perform vocals on this one when Grandaddy was touring with him. I'd pay a lot for a single use time machine just to be able to go back and see that. Jason Lytle proves again that it's possible to be both melancholy and devastatingly epic within a single song. It's a perfect sad beast of a track that makes way for some of Grandaddy's best work on the rest of the record. Oh, and it inspired Jason Lee to name his son Pilot Inspektor. So it's done a lot of good in the world. 

Six Summer Roadtrip Albums

Jams in motion


We're finally in the thick of summer and you're getting antsy. Maybe you're cooped up at a boring job while brilliant weather shines outside. Maybe you're off from school and bored at home with no real goals to accomplish before you ship back off for the fall semester. Whatever it is about summer that inspires wanderlust in people, it's a nearly universal urge, and one that's consistently satisfying to act upon. Gather up some buddies, pack up some snacks, hop in the car and just drive for a week. See where it takes you. See what you find. 

Six Awesome Lady Bassists

When the XX doms the low ends


Too many people consider rock music to be a boy's club. Many of the most popular bands predominantly comprise the male kind of human, but there are hundreds upon hundreds of incredible lady rock musicians. Here's a brief celebration of those women who have taken it upon themselves to master the guitar's bigger, boomier cousin: the electric bass. These ladies can hammer out the low end with the best of them. To boot, they've all contributed to bands that made huge waves in their respective genres, often redefining what it meant to make rock music at the time of their peak involvement with the scene. 


Melissa Auf der Mar


You don't play first for Hole, then the Smashing Pumpkins, and then your own awesome self-named rock band without some serious chops. Melissa Auf der Maur and her impressively German-sounding name puts on quite the live show. I caught her and her band alongside Muse at Curiosa festival a few years back and promptly procured her record Auf der Maur the next day. 

Butthole Surfers - "Pepper"

Do you ever come back to a popular song that you assumed to be a throwaway when it was all over the radio and actually find yourself forging an honest emotional connection to it now that it's out of the airwaves? I had this experience with the Butthole Surfers, of all bands, and their hit single "Pepper". Something about that off-kilter talk-singing contrasted with the melody of the chorus all over the strange warbling background drone just clicks for me now in ways it never did when it was actually on the radio. Here's the uncensored audio; maybe it does the same for you.